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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Family Harmony


In  my discussions with children they often mention  that  a

major  problem in their lives is getting along with brothers  and

sisters.  Their parents also state that lack of family harmony is

often a source of great conflict and unhappiness.
The  interaction between members of the family is  the  most

significant   contribution  to  the  formation  of  the   child’s

personality.   The  relationship between the parents becomes  the

basis of the atmosphere.   According to Adlerian Psychology,  the

atmosphere  can  be:  competitive or cooperative,  dominating  or

submissive,  conforming  or creative,  humiliating  or  friendly,

based  on mutual respect or smothering,  and orderly or  chaotic.

Parents  need to be aware of the atmosphere they are creating  in

the  home  because  the  children  are  modeling  their  parents’

behavior.  More important than the type of interaction is how the

child feels about it.
Edith  Dewey  in her book,  “Basic Applications of  Adlerian

Psychology”,  suggests  that  parents may  encourage  competition

between  siblings in an effort to get children to work harder and

achieve  hoped-for  success.  Even if they  refrain  from  direct

comparisons¬  theù  maù  unconsciouslù  encouragå  “covert¢   oò

“qualitative”  competition  in  which  one  child  avoids  active

participation  in an area where another seems to do  well.  Thus,

children who are close in age tend to “divide” the arena in which

they  operate.   If  the  first child is successful  in  academic

skills, the second tends to try something else–he may become the

athlete   or   the   “social”   one.    Whenever   we   have   an

“underachiever”,  we  usually find a high achieving sibling  next

older  or younger in the family constellation.   The parents  may

not have caused the competition,  but they usually contribute  to

it unwittingly.
Dewey  goes on to comment that parents,  and also  teachers,

are  often  unaware  of  how their actions  fortify  the  child’s

interpretation  of  his role in the  family  or  community.   The

“responsible”  child  is given more responsibility.   The  “good”

child  often  shows up the “bad”  one  by  tattling,  emphasizing

contrasts.  Adults often fall for it.   The “baby” has everything

done for him.   Parents tend to label the children,  and children

then  cast  themselves  in these  roles:  “real  boy”,  “tomboy”,

“sissy”, “shy”, “tattler” and so on.
There  are  four  basic  ingredients  to  building  positive

relationships in a family.  They are: mutual respect, taking time

for  fun,  encouragement and communicating love.   Members  of  a

family  need to accept each other as they are and to be  positive

in their interactions with each other.   The family should be the

one  place  where  you can be yourself.   It is the  place  where

members  can go and be reinforced in order to face  the  problems

outside with renewed energy.
There  are some general guidelines which help to bring about

harmony between brothers and sisters.  They are: ignore tattling,
and  do not become involved in their arguments.   Most  arguments

among children occur in the parents’ presence for the purpose  of

gaining the parents’ attention.  Parents treat children with more

respect  when  they allow them to handle the  problem  themselves

without  parental interference.  Most  parents,  however,  become

involved  in  playing detective.   Fault-finding  only  increases

rivalry among children.  If their arguments are disturbing to the

parents,  the  children should be sent somewhere else until  they

settle  the argument.   The parents can express confidence in the

children’s ability to solve their problem.
The  kind  of entertainment parents bring into the home  can

have  a negative affect on family harmony.  Many TV programs  and

in particular Cable TV programs introduce violence,  hate, greed,

unsavory life styles,  and in general,  all of the things parents

do  not  want for their children.   Children are  modeling  their

behavior  after  the adults in their  lives.  This  includes  the

characters they see on TV.   All adults,  but parents especially,

have the responsibility to be positive models for their children.

There cannot be a double standard.  A “do as I say,  not as I do”

attitude will not bring about harmony in the home.

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